A Deeper Focus


Guateca: collaborative appropriate technology education in Guatemala

For the second summer in a row, eight Cal Poly students will head to Guatemala with Cal Poly Physics Professor Pete Schwartz (a 2010 speaker at the Central Coast Bioneers Conference) to meet Guatemalan students in the rural mountain village of San Pablo. Together, they will study language, culture, energy and societal challenges, as well as develop appropriate technologies. The school, “Guateca”, aims to become a new model of development by way of collaboratively addressing challenges that both communities face.

The program stems from Cal Poly’s upper-level Appropriate Technology course series, developed by Schwartz. The courses focus on developing nations and cover economic, resource, energy use and sustainability issues. Students design technologies to address the community’s issues such as energy generation, inefficient cook stoves, building techniques, agricultural challenges, and water sanitation. Business plans for small enterprises will then be developed in order to provide a means of disseminating the technologies, as well as creating local jobs. During the regular school year, Cal Poly students taking the courses collaborate on projects with college students in San Pablo via email.

During the 8-week summer school in San Pablo, students from both communities draw on the knowledge and progress made separately at Cal Poly and in San Pablo throughout the year to build and field test various technologies and enterprise ideas. Cal Poly Guateca students earn credit for “Energy Society, and the Environment”, a Spanish-English language exchange, and can choose between credit in Appropriate Technology Design or a Bilingual Teaching Experience instructed by Schwartz and other supporting faculty.

Guateca is grateful for donations for expanding the program, including construction and classroom materials. They also welcome old laptop computers, which are donated to the school in San Pablo. To find out more about the program, visit their website at www.guateca.com.

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